What to See in Spain at Easter
It can be hard for someone who doesn’t live in here to know what to see at Easter in Spain. Without a doubt, the Easter processions are spectacular and moving and the main reason to visit Spain durning this week. Semana Santa, as it is called here, is a full week of Easter celebrations, ritual and Catholic tradition. The processions will thrill all the senses, with dramatic drum beats, ornate and bizarre floats carried on the shoulders of groaning penitents. It is solemn and yet joyful. It is meditative and colorful. We have picked out ten of our favorites, each with a different feel to it.
The 10 Best Easter Processions to See in Spain
Photographer Alex Simon
Easter in Los Picaos de San Vincente Sonsierra
In the village of Los Picaos de San Vicente de Sonsierra in La Rioja, there is the one of the only displays of penitence that includes flagellation, a practice that was common in many places until the 18th century. Though actual self-flagellation is no longer allowed, this ritual has survived in the village, symbolically. On their route, the penitents who are dressed in white robes, whip their own backs with esparto-grass ropes for twenty minutes.
Easter in Seville
Seville holds some of the biggest Holy Week processions including La Madruga (dawn), a series of processions that take place during the night of Maundy Thursday and into the morning of Good Friday, a highlight of Semana Santa for many spectators. Listen out for the saetas, or bursts of flamenco from people on balconies along the procession route who are so moved by the spectacle they have to express their lamentations.
Easter in Malaga
In Málaga, giant tronos, or thrones, are carried through the streets by members of the brotherhoods dressed in long purple robes and followed by women dressed in black and wearing the typical mantilla, or lace veil. There is a real festival atmosphere in the city during Holy Week, much livelier than some of the more somber celebrations in Spain’s northern towns and cities.
Easter in Zamora
Zamora lays claim to the oldest Semana Santa celebrations in Spain, which date back to 1179. The city, which is close to the Portuguese border, increases its population by five times during Holy Week, as up to 300,000 people flock to watch the ancient traditions. After midnight, for the Capas Paradas, the door of the church opens and the brothers are dressed in the Capa of Chiva (hooded cloaks) in brown cloth with black brocade, carrying lanterns.
They march in silence as solemn music plays. On Thursday at 11 pm is a procession inspired by the burial of a poor man in a Zamora’s village. Jesus’ body is covered with a shroud and is led to the grave in a simple stretcher, accompanied by neighbors in complete silence, broken only by the bells. Later, there is the singing of the Miserere, a highlight of the procession, and one of the most loved events of the Holy Week in Zamora.
Easter in Valverde de la Veras
Although not quite as bloody as the ones seen in some parts of South America, taking part in a Valverde de la Veras’ ‘Via Crucis’ is far from being pain-free. Participants, known as empalaos, have their bodies tightly strapped to a wooden cross with rope and then walk barefoot through the town streets for hours, their faces always covered with a veil. Their march represents the 14 stations of the cross, symbolizing Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion.
Photographer Alex Simon
Easter in Calanda
El Romper de la Hora in Calanda consists of the beating in unison of a huge number of drums in one square to commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. It is said that the drumming represents the noise that was heard on Earth after the death of Jesus Christ. This hair-raising spectacle is made all the more so when the drummers’ hands become bloodied from the force and duration of the passionate beating of the drums.
Easter in Tudela
This year in the town of Tudela in the south of Navarra in the golden land of vegetables, they have a special tradition whereby a child dressed as an Angel swings out of the church steeple window and across the main square and stops in front of the Virgin Mary. The ‘Angel de Tudela’ removes the dark veil off the eyes of Jesus Christ’s mother la Virgin Maria to allow her to “see the light” revealing the news of the resurrection of Christ first hand form the Angel of Tudela.
Easter in Cabanillas
ceremony is enacted on Easter Sunday. Following the main procession where a girl dressed as an angel tells the Virgin Mary the good news of Jesus’s rising, the “Capture of Judas” takes place. Basically, the young people of the village dress up as Romans and pursue Judas (also played by a youth) in order to lynch him. Judas wears a red and silver garment and a mesh over his head, and has to run and hide among the crowd while they scold him and shout at him. He sometimes enters houses and steals food, or jumps from balconies. The Romans take about fifteen minutes to pursue and finally catch Judas, after which they decapitate (symbolically of course) him as punishment for his betrayal.